‘Scared to cross borders’: Commission urged to take action for same-sex couples’ rights

‘Scared to cross borders’: Commission urged to take action for same-sex couples’ rights
The rainbow flag shining bright on European Commission headquarters. Credit: European Commission/ Lukasz Kobus

In a symbolic move to support the European Union’s LGBTQ+ community, a majority of the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted for same-sex marriages and partnerships to be recognised across the EU.

According to several LGBTQ+ interest groups, the Parliament is bringing the subject back on the agenda because several EU Member States are still refusing to implement a law that should guarantee that same-sex couples have the same freedom of movement and family reunification rights as others.

“We join the European Parliament in urging the European Commission to properly implement the European Court of Justice ruling on the Coman case, which found that ‘spouse’ in the Free Movement Directive also applies to same-sex couples,” Katrin Hugendubel, Advocacy Director at ILGA-Europe, an advocacy group promoting the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people on a European level, told The Brussels Times.

On Monday, MEPs voted for a resolution, which, according to a Parliament spokesperson, included recommendations for adjustments to be made to ensure that, by law, marriages or registered partnerships formed in one Member State should be recognised in all of them in a uniform way.

According to Eva Declerck, Coordinator at çavaria, the Flemish body advocating for LGBTQ+ people, it is good that the Parliament is bringing the topic back on the agenda, but she added that “it is also a pity that the Parliament has to do that at this point.”

“It is only because countries are refusing to implement this nationally, that this is back on the agenda,” Declerck told The Brussels Times. “This is also why the Parliament is now once again asking the Commission to take action and to check whether this law is being implemented.”

Legal turmoil

According to ILGA-Europe, thousands of families with LGBTQ+ parents in the EU still live at risk of not having their parental relations recognised and face legal turmoil due to differences in Member States’ national systems.

For example, MEPs argued that the Commission should take action against Romania, where three years after the landmark judgement, the government has failed to update national legislation to reflect the recent Coman case ruling.

“The Commission needs to use all instruments available, including infringement, to ensure Romania, as well as all other Member States, finally respect the judgement,” Hugendubel said.

She explained that, because the judgement is not recognised across the continent, parents can still cease to be parents when moving from one EU Member State to another, as birth certificates from other Member States are not recognised.

In light of this, MEPs urged for uniform recognition by all EU countries to accept adults mentioned in a child’s birth certificate as their legal parents, regardless of whether both parents are of the same sex.

“The lack of recognition of documents will restrict access to education, healthcare, and social security. These situations are not in the best interest of the child as they have negative consequences on the fundamental rights of children,” Hugendubel said.

She added that in some cases, LGBTQ+ parents have said they are scared to cross an EU border as they are afraid to be separated from their children.

Declerck explained that at the moment, individual Member States are in charge of implementing the law and ensuring it is being followed, however, if the Commission decided to officially implement it on an EU level, it would be able to ensure it was implemented by law.

She added that despite the Coman case ruling, very little will change to the rights of same-sex couples and marriages unless the Commission takes this action.

“The European Parliament is well aware of this and has in a sense become an ally for the community, however, the Commission is in a more difficult position, but their opinion also has more influence, which is why a next step is expected from them,” Declerck explained.

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